‘Feminism has betrayed an entire generation of women’


Rebecca Walker (photo: David Fenton, 2003)

In 2008, the daughter of novelist Alice Walker, author of The Color Purple, wrote about how her mother’s extreme feminism poisoned her life. Rebecca Walker rued her upbringing and praised the happiness that motherhood has now brought her. Her article caused a bit of an uproar at the time.

My mother’s feminist principles coloured every aspect of my life. As a little girl, I wasn’t even allowed to play with dolls or stuffed toys in case they brought out a maternal instinct. It was drummed into me that being a mother, raising children and running a home were a form of slavery. Having a career, travelling the world and being independent were what really mattered according to her. …

Feminism has betrayed an entire generation of women into childlessness. It is devastating.

Five years later, mother and daughter are still estranged, and the original piece by Rebecca Walker is worth reading again.

Will this Legislature uphold or undermine ideals of family?

Animating the Sutherland Institute’s efforts on family issues at the Legislature is the principle that individual family disintegration or failure to form is not the only problem our society faces. The increasing social and legal acceptance of family breakdown and weakness is also a very serious problem and contributes to individual tragedies.

In the 2013 session, the Legislature has the opportunity to bolster or undermine the ideals of family reflected in the state’s laws.

Senator Lyle Hillyard has sponsored a common-sense measure that would allow courts to consider whether a divorcing spouse engaged in abuse or adultery when deciding amounts of spousal support that will have to be paid on divorce. Current court interpretations prevent judges from adjusting amounts or denying alimony even when the money is to be paid from an innocent spouse to a former spouse who left the family to pursue another relationship. Read more

America's demographic cliff

Will a lack of children lead to America’s decline? Jonathan V. Last wrote a thought-provoking essay for Saturday’s Wall Street Journal about “America’s Baby Bust”:

For more than three decades, Chinese women have been subjected to their country’s brutal one-child policy. Those who try to have more children have been subjected to fines and forced abortions. Their houses have been razed and their husbands fired from their jobs. As a result, Chinese women have a fertility rate of 1.54. Here in America, white, college-educated women — a good proxy for the middle class — have a fertility rate of 1.6. America has its very own one-child policy. And we have chosen it for ourselves.

Forget the debt ceiling. Forget the fiscal cliff, the sequestration cliff and the entitlement cliff. Those are all just symptoms. What America really faces is a demographic cliff: The root cause of most of our problems is our declining fertility rate.

Last is the author of the book “What to Expect When No One’s Expecting: American’s Coming Demographic Disaster.”

To read more of the essay, click here.


Talking past each other

"Conversation," by Camille Pissarro

The phrase “talking past each other” surely applies to the “debate” in which we are supposedly engaged over the meaning of marriage as it relates to divorce, redefinition, cohabitation, unwed parenting, etc.  On one side, there are discussions of the channeling function of the law, the importance of upholding ideals in the face of real-world tragedies, and the rightful expectation of children to know and be raised by their own mother and father or a very close alternative.

On the other side, the message is simpler: I hurt because of you.

The subtext is that if the laws are changed to be more inclusive or if standards are relaxed, then pangs of conscience will be alleviated or thoughtless people will stop saying unkind things.

As Maggie Gallagher noted recently, it seems that there will always be the potential for unmet desires, but the call for a truly civilized society is to prioritize our response to the hurt this situation engenders. Will we respond to expressions of pain in a way that increases it for another person? Read more

Weighing decisions of character against feelings of discomfort

In our continued debates over moral issues, it is not uncommon for politicians, opinion leaders and others to announce that, after agonizing over the issue, they have decided to change positions or announce positions in favor of things like abortion or redefining marriage or whatever.

Some of these announcements are well-meaning and sincere, some are opportunistic and cynical. A common explanation is that the experience of a relative or friend or prominent advocate has led to the change of heart (or mind). It’s probably not appropriate to try to guess motives – and certainly not to assume ill motives – but sincerity is not the only factor that ought to be considered.

For instance, how should our discomfort (even very acute or agonizing discomfort) caused by the fact that moral standards appear to create hardships for others be weighed against other considerations? Does the fact that we know or admire or love someone who has rejected the standard absolve us from upholding it?

To paraphrase a statement I heard years ago, there is a need for decisions of character apart from sympathy. Read more

Spending our children’s inheritance

One of the gems in Edmund Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France is his description of the tradition threatened by the social engineering of the French Revolution as an “entailed inheritance derived to us from our forefathers, and to be transmitted to our posterity.” The analogy is to a form of property ownership in which a person inherits subject to the condition that the property is passed along without diminution to the next heir.

This concept has an echo in the Preamble to the Constitution which includes among the purposes of ratification that the States might “secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.” “Secure” is an action verb here. Noah Webster’s dictionary (1828) defines “secured” as: “Effectually guarded or protected; made certain; put beyond hazard; effectually confined; made fast.”

A recent study in the Journal of Political Economy provides an interesting take on inheritance. It found that only a small part of the correlation between the incomes of fathers and the incomes of sons can be explained by financial factors. The inheritance is more an inheritance of “human capital” — skills, knowledge, capacity, personality traits, etc. Read more

Polyamory and willful blindness?

Imagine a scenario where a small child is allowed to play with loaded weapons without meaningful oversight from the parents. Then imagine the parents excuse their behavior by saying that the child had not yet been shot or shot anyone else, so his continuing to play with firearms has no relevance to their parenting abilities.

A few weeks ago, a Pennsylvania court issued a ruling in a custody dispute with, one can only hope, very unusual facts. The dispute was between a mother and father who had conceived a child while the mother was married to another man with whom the two parents lived (another woman subsequently joined the mix), and the adoptive parents of the biological mother. The parents’ “lifestyle choice” has been given the odd neologism “polyamory.”

At one point in the polyamorous relationship, one of the children sustained an injury while with the husband (not the father) that spurred child welfare agency involvement (it’s unclear what happened, as the court notes in a footnote). “After the four-way polyamorous relationship between Mother, Husband, Father and Stepmother dissolved,” the current dispute erupted. The trial judge gave custody to the grandparents, and this opinion came from a review of that decision.

Read more

Academic witch hunt ends in acquittal

A Child Trends report in 2002 concluded: “First, research clearly demonstrates that family structure matters for children, and the family structure that helps children the most is a family headed by two biological parents in a low-conflict marriage.”

There is plenty of social science evidence, spanning decades, to support this assertion, much of it collected in a report by the National Marriage Project called “Why Marriage Matters.”

Some influential voices would like to place an asterisk on the conclusion that married biological parents are the gold standard in terms of child well-being. They argue that there is one family structure that seems to be an exception to the common-sense view that children benefit from a stable family structure with their own biological parents. This group consists of same-sex couples raising children. Despite the lack of sexual complementarity and biological relatedness, we are told by organizations like the American Psychological Association, children raised by parents in same-sex relationships experience no different outcomes. (For a critique of the APA position paper on same-sex marriage, see this briefing paper from the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy [iMapp].) Read more

Helen Gurley Brown and the American family

Helen Gurley Brown’s death last week was followed by a number of laudatory stories about her trail-blazing career at Cosmopolitan magazine.

Undoubtedly she was successful, measured by influence and money. But I find it hard to lionize her career or her effect on American culture. She was well-known for turning Cosmo into a source of explicit “man-pleasing” sex tips, and for the quote: “Good girls go to heaven. Bad girls go everywhere.” A terribly clever saying, yes, but “going everywhere” isn’t a roadmap to a happy, fulfilling life.

Reading fashion magazines that emphasize appearance, sexuality and thinness – filled with Photoshopped images – is not healthy for girls or for women, and Cosmo is one of the worst offenders.

The perpetration of this distorted outlook is insanity. It is not just anti-family, but also profoundly anti-feminist – despite articles on a range of subjects, such magazines’ main focus is on women as objects to be looked at, valuable mainly for their (super sexy!) appearance, no matter their other abilities or roles in life. As The New York Times wrote, “The look of women’s magazines today — a sea of voluptuous models and titillating cover lines — is due in no small part to her influence.”

Brown, the author of Sex and the Single Girl, was an icon of “women’s sexual liberation,” aka the sexual revolution, which research has shown was not exactly healthy for the American family. Although she was happily married to David Brown for decades, she suggested that women above a certain age – when the pickings were slim – have sex with their friends’ husbands. Really? Now there’s a friend you could do without. (She also said, “You can’t be sexual at 60 if you’re fat,” so apparently only thin women could prey on their friends’ husbands.)

Brown was a strong woman who had a wildly successful career in a field dominated by men. Her influence in publishing and in encouraging women to broaden their career choices undoubtedly went deeper than Cosmo‘s lurid covers. It’s a pity that her real legacy is the intensified objectification of women and girls (or, as Forbes puts it, “do-me feminism“).

Alimony, audits and adoption: family issues heard during Utah interim meetings

During last week’s interim day meetings, the legislature heard three family issues.

The Judiciary Interim Committee listened to testimony about reforming alimony (brought to the Committee by Representative Fred Cox, R-West Valley City) which has been a Sutherland Institute priority. The proposal would allow courts to consider whether one spouse broke up a marriage in determining an award of support from one spouse to the other. This is a matter of basic justice: a person who did nothing to break up a marriage should not have to pay the spouse who did; a spouse should also not be put into a bad financial position by a spouse who destroys a marriage. The committee seemed open to the commonsense principle the reform would advance. Sutherland will continue working on this issue. Read more